So we’re here: The end of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. When all is said and done, we’ll have been through 10 seasons, 193 episodes, 2 weird anime OVAs (Mutant Turtles: Superman Legend) and whatever THIS shit is.

I began reviewing the first season of this show in August of 2012; when I didn’t even think I’d make it halfway this far. But this is it. I almost don’t want it to be over. Almost.

Speaking from a historical perspective, by 1996, Turtlemania wasn’t just dead, it had crumbled to dust like an Egyptian mummy. The world was done with the Ninja Turtles and I imagine most ex-fans at the time weren’t even aware the show was still on TV. And there’s kind of a good reason for that.

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CBS was phasing out its Saturday morning cartoon block, not just in terms of scheduling real estate, but in straight-up priority. CBS would preempt their cartoons for fuckin’ golf if they felt like it. As a result of their total indifference toward their own animation lineup, at least half of season 10 was preempted in most areas of the United States, rendering these final episodes virtually unseen. Lionsgate actually advertised these season 10 episodes (when they were first released as DVD bonus content with season 1) as “never before seen”. While not entirely true (some areas DID get them, so long as there wasn’t a jai alai match going on or something), it does go to show you how little the world cared about TMNT by 1996. Some programming tech at a local CBS affiliate had the choice between a new episode of Ninja Turtles or the backgammon semi-finals. And he didn’t choose Ninja Turtles.

Now, imagine you were one of the dozen people in 1996 who was still dedicated enough to Ninja Turtles to keep watching. Ten long years of devotion with the end in sight, only for the episodes to constantly be preempted and never rerun. You made it this far just to have the series finale stolen from you by, like, badminton or something. And when you complained, no one in the world gave a shit because it was 1996 and you shouldn’t have been watching Ninja Turtles anymore, anyway. Furthermore, it would be at least another 10 years before You Tube would become a thing and someone who DID get the episodes broadcast in their area, AND taped them, would upload copies online.

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Wow, I mean, there’s fizzling out due to declining popularity and then there’s having your series finale come in second to a regional spelling bee championship being held at the tri-county adult learning annex. The end of the original TMNT cartoon is the equivalent of one of those obscure silent film stars dying forgotten and alone in a Hollywood rest home.

As we get started, you’ll find that season 10 is fully aware that it will be ending the series. Get ready for a lot of resolution in a short span of time (this is another eight-episode season). The unstable mutations will be cured, Carter will get written out, Shredder and Krang will get one last hurrah, Dregg will bite the dust and there’ll be closure. Sweet, merciful closure.

Let’s wrap this up…

“The Return of Dregg” (written by Jeffrey Scott)

The Turtles use the fragments of the Vortex Crystal to cure their unstable mutations. However, Lord Dregg and his new second-in-command, Mung, sabotage the process at the last minute, transforming Leonardo into a mindless monster.

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While season 10 is one single serialized storyline, it can be broken up into three separate cycles that each resolve a different lingering plot. There’s a 2-parter that sews up the unstable mutations, a 3-parter that gets rid of Shredder and Krang (and also Carter), and a 3-parter that eliminates Lord Dregg and closes the series.

This opening 2-parter picks up right where the season 9 finale left off. Dregg, having fled Earth to escape Doomquest, has apparently rejoined his scattered armada and successfully repaired the Dreggnaut, which means he’s now at full power. I admit that I liked Dregg manipulating Earth authorities to protect him throughout season 9 a bit more than this, but it also required him to act like an unconvincing goody-two-shoes when the cameras were rolling, which curbed his menace. With his minions regrouped and his tech back at full capacity, Dregg doesn’t fuck around this season, so he’s much more sinister and dangerous. It’s more typical, but it does feel like a legit escalation from last season.

Hi-Tech is removed from the series as Dregg’s second-in-command; Dregg straps him to a rocket and sends him orbiting the galaxy as punishment for his failures. It’s sort of a neat way to distinguish Dregg from Shredder as the main villain. No matter how many times Bebop and Rocksteady screwed up, Shredder always kept them around. Dregg, on the other hand, has a threshold for failure.

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Mung replaces Hi-Tech and while his sniveling sycophantic personality isn’t all that interesting, at least he HAS a personality, which is more than Hi-Tech could say. Being the chief science officer of Dregg’s army, he also comes up with interesting devices and schemes whereas Hi-Tech was essentially just a soldier. Weird winged troopers called Bat-Men replace the Techno Gang as Dregg’s main forces with this season, too. It’s never said outright, but my interpretation was that Dregg hired the Techno Gang as mercenaries to fill in for his Bat-Men army that had been scattered across the universe by the Galactic Patrol. With his army regrouped, he no longer needed them and they were dismissed or killed or whatever.

There’s a lot of continuity to this episode, opening with the Turtles having cured their unstable mutations with the Vortex Crystal from last season’s finale, Dregg duplicating the crystal so he can build his Vortex Transporter (essentially just a different take on Krang’s interdimensional portal), Dregg getting ahold of Leo’s unstable mutated DNA (which he tried to do last season in “The Showdown” but failed) and the introduction of Mung’s micro-bots which will be a recurring menace. I mentioned last review that the two Dregg seasons don’t feel all that distinct from each other, but when taken altogether they do form a pretty tight 16-part storyline. You just can’t miss any installments. It’s a good thing CBS never preempted this show for minor league tennis matches or anything.

One last thing to mention is that Michael Gough takes over as Raphael for this season. Compared to Thom Pinto and Hal Rayle, he’s definitely the best of Rob Paulsen’s substitutes, though he still sounds “soft”. I guess his voice just doesn’t have that sarcastic edge to it that was uniquely Paulsen, I dunno. He’ll work well enough for these last eight episodes.

“The Beginning of the End” (written by Jeffrey Scott)

While Donatello and Carter try to reverse Leonardo’s out-of-control mutation, Lord Dregg has other plans. Combining Leo’s mutated DNA with Mung’s plutonium ray, Dregg plans to turn Leo into a walking nuclear bomb.

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I love Dregg’s scheme in this episode. Throughout the first two acts, the way he words his plan to use the plutonium to turn Leonardo into an “even greater monster” makes it sound like he’s just going to mutate him into Godzilla or something. Then during the climax, we find that he just straight up turns Leonardo into a walking nuke. Dregg really is meaner in this season, which I guess can be attributed to the new head writer Jeffrey Scott, who didn’t seem as big on levity as David Wise was.

The unstable mutations are finally, FINALLY done away with by the end of this episode. I honestly don’t think they should have lingered past the season 9 finale, but at least we didn’t get shortchanged on the ending to that arc. Funny, though, is that this whole plot about a Turtle getting super-mutated into a mindless, rampaging monster is something we’d eventually see again in the 4Kids series. Albeit in that go around, it’s Donatello who gets turned into a monster and has to be cured by his brothers. Of course, that incarnation was inspired by a storyline from the Mirage comics, where it was Raphael who got super-mutated into a hulking freak.

Michelangelo has yet to have his go around with this familiar storyline.

One weird artifact of this episode is that it goes out of its way on two separate occasions to praise the internet, like it was trying to sell kids on the concept or something. April uses an internet search function to dig up dirt on an auto chopping ring, all while praising how much easier research is with “The Internet”. Later, Michelangelo needs to find where Dregg has April and Leonardo held hostage, but only has a partial address to work with. No worries! He types it into an internet search function and “The Web” takes care of the rest!

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God, this internet thing sounds so fucking rad.

Dai Won, the animation studio that handled season 8, returns for season 10 and they’re a much better fit than Shanghai Morning Sun (who handled season 9). This episode looks especially good in a lot of places, as they use smear techniques whenever anyone is swiping their weapons and claws. It gives the action sequences some pep, and for the most part the animation is quite consistent.

Well, with this 2-parter that ties up the unstable mutation story arc behind us, we can move onto what some people consider the highlight of season 10.

“The Power of Three” (written by Jeffrey Scott)

Using the Vortex Transporter, Dregg teleports Shredder and Krang back to Earth. He needs their help in capturing the Turtles so he can use their mutated DNA to transform himself into a super-being. Shredder and Krang immediately rebel, of course, leaving the Turtles caught in the middle.

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The Shredder and Krang have only been absent for 10 episodes, but it FEELS like they’ve been MIA for years. While they certainly aren’t in much shape to rival Dregg as villains, even across this 3-parter, it just wouldn’t have been right for them to sit the final season out. I get the feeling Jeffrey Scott felt that way, too, and so they’re given a pretty good arc to have one last battle with the Turtles.

The first thing I noticed about this episode is just how dense the continuity of the season is getting. Season 9 was serialized, but each episode could still be watched as a complete story on its own. Season 10, however, is very heavy on the continuity and references it builds up. We’re on the third episode and already you need a score card to keep track of all the plot developments.

So it turns out that Dregg wanted the Turtles to get those fragments of the Vortex Crystal last season and use them to stabilize their mutations. He mentioned last episode when the Turtles were cured that he had bigger plans for them. Now we know that he was using them as incubators for a Super Mutagen. Then there’s Mung, who offhandedly mentioned last episode that he had been searching for resources in Dimension X. Well, turns out that wasn’t a throwaway line, as it explains how he knows of Shredder and Krang. Then there’s the Vortex Transporter from the first episode of this season, rebuilt and used to summon the old villains back into the picture.

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Really, this is an ambitious season in terms of storytelling and tension-building. In fact, I think that this is the first episode of the entire series to end with a “To be continued” message on the screen. There were multi-parters in the past, but they always ended on something of a conclusive note, never a straight-up cliffhanger like this.

Shredder and Krang take much of the spotlight, as they deserve, and go on a rampage in the city streets as they feud with Dregg and Mung. Of course, what’s the very first thing they do once they return to Earth?

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Kidnap April O’Neil. Because you can’t teach an old ninja new tricks.

And again, we learn that it was all part of Dregg’s plan. By the end of the episode, he has the Turtles, Shredder and Krang all hooked up to surgical tables as he sucks the Super Mutagen out of the TMNT and the “life energies” out of Shredder and Krang, turning himself into a super-being (cue cliffhanger). Dregg has really got his shit together.

Carter has changed this season; he’s grown up and isn’t the rebellious youth he was before. He wants to leave the lair, return to college and be a normal young adult, but of course all that is dependent on getting over his unstable mutation. He thinks he’s got it licked in this episode and leaves, which is another aspect of the cliffhanger (he’ll be back).

Then there’s April. So far this season, she’s been dropping dialogue about how she’s through with Ninja Turtle-related stories and wants to get back to doing “real” journalism. It’s kind of strange and very spontaneous, but I guess it gives her something to do this season. When Shredder kidnaps her, she begs him to leave her alone, not because she’s intimidated but because she’s “retired” from being a damsel in distress. It’s actually a wonderfully metatextual scene.

“A Turtle in Time” (written by Jeffrey Scott)

Although Shredder escapes, Dregg now possesses the strength of the Turtles and the intellect of Krang. Without his mutation abilities, Carter will have to summon the Turtles of the past to rescue the Turtles of the present before Dregg sets the entire Earth on fire.

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Krang and Shredder in this episode get along really well. Like, they’re best buddies. Shredder frees himself and rescues Krang, who is dying from being drained of his life energy. Shredder immediately sets about acquiring the equipment so he can give Krang a “life energy transfusion” (it’s a kid’s cartoon). Krang weakly moans, “I haven’t much time” and Shredder, in an awkwardly soothing tone, assures him, “Be silent. I know what to do.”

Awwww. They really DO care about each other.

The Turtles are likewise dying from having their energies drained and guess who rescues them? April! First she saves herself from captivity, then she gets them out of the jam. I was afraid this was going to be another “April is useless” scenario, but she really has changed with these last few seasons.

We also get the return of Landor and Merrick. Carter contacts them by, get this, bouncing a message off a star ten light years away, that way Landor and Merrick receive the distress signal twenty years in the future. And he does it so nonchalantly, too. And with immediate results! When Landor and Merrick leave, they tell him, “If you need us again, just bounce another message off a star.” Like it’s so fucking easy.

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In a neat nod to continuity, the past Turtles are plucked from the season 8 finale, “Turtle Trek”. I was expecting them to be taken from a generic situation, but nah, Scott actually went the distance and chose an episode to grab them from. If there’s one problem, it’s that the past Turtles are taken from a “red sky” episode, after they’d gotten their redesigns. As a result, you can’t tell the past and present TMNT apart when they’re standing together. It might have been cooler if it had been the “classic” Turtles from the past and maybe we could’ve gotten a meta joke while we were at it (“Did we really used to look like that?”).

Dregg’s all-powerful now, though the way they visualize his use of Krang’s intellect is… odd. A miniature Krang grows out of his head and speaks to him to give him advice.

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I’m not sure what the heck that’s all about. When Dregg’s plan to teleport a piece of the sun into New York falls through (Shredder sabotages the Vortex Transporter), he instead teleports steel from nearby skyscrapers and has Mung’s micro-bots transform the raw material into a robot army (cue cliffhanger). We end up seeing a lot of citywide destruction and, kid’s cartoon or not, you know a lot of people must have bought it.

“Turtles to the Second Power” (written by Jeffrey Scott)

The combined might of eight Ninja Turtles seems to be no match for Dregg’s robot army. Even worse, if the past Turtles aren’t returned to their proper place in time, it could create a paradox that destroys the universe. Meanwhile, Shredder and Krang make one last attempt to seize the Vortex Transporter from Dregg.

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As a farewell to Shredder and Krang, the two villains spend less time acting as a threat to the Turtles and more time hiding from Dregg’s Bat-Men. Maybe this wasn’t their best outing, but it was still a pleasure to get them one last time before the series ended.

Inadvertently, they actually help the Turtles and humanity out through most of the episode. Shredder steals a chip from the Vortex Transporter and that’s what delays Dregg’s scheme to transport sunspots to Earth. Though they don’t team up with the Turtles, they never team up with Dregg either, and spend the three-parter fighting him. That distraction, in turn, helps the Turtles. So, um, Shredder and Krang spend their last appearance acting as good guys. Maybe not intentionally, but they do.

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The last we see of Shredder, he’s on the platform of the Vortex Platform, being zapped into Dimension X. His last words are “I won’t go baaaccckkk!” and then he’s gone forever. I do have to wonder about the idea that he’s “trapped” in Dimension X. Doesn’t Krang still have all his Rock Soldier forces as well as his own intellect? Couldn’t he just build another transdimensional portal and start all over again? I guess it’s kind of hard to finish a villain off once and for all when Broadcast Standards & Practices won’t let you kill them (or WON’T they?).

There’s a sense of finality to this episode that almost makes it feel like a series finale on its own. We’re still three episodes away from being done, but in the end, all the villains are sent to Dimension X, the Dreggnaut is destroyed and Carter goes to the future with Landor and Merrick to find a cure for his unstable mutation. The series could have ended here if it had felt like it.

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Carter’s gone, but I’ll repeat my earlier assertion that he wasn’t nearly as bad as people made him out to be. I suppose his greatest flaw was that once he outgrew being a rebel, he immediately became a bland hanger-on, more a “participant” than a cast member. You won’t really miss him when he’s gone because it hardly feels like he’s been around at all for the past few episodes.

There’s a moment in this episode where Krang accuses Dregg of being insane and that’ll actually come into play by the finale. Dregg is acting more hardcore this season than he did in the last one and he’s been getting progressively more ferocious. It’s nice buildup and Tony Jaye is really rocking it with the evil overlord voice (but that was always his strong suit).

“Mobster from Dimension X” (written by Jeffrey Scott)

Recovering from his defeat in Dimension X, Dregg sends a mobster named the Globfather to Earth to steal the Protein Computer from Professor Huxley, a device that could allow him to control all of Earth’s computers telepathically. The Turtles have to protect Ronnie, the Professor’s son, as he holds the secret to the computer.

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This episode feels more like a throwback to the “classic” era of the series and an awkward fit for the “red sky” revamp. Unfortunately, it’s a throwback in all the worst ways.

You have a very silly one-shot villain, an alien blob monster that’s also a gangster who can turn people into slime by touching them, and his name is a stupid pun. Dregg’s scheme isn’t particularly interesting, revolving around stealing technology from a scientist, which is more along the lines of what Shredder and Krang used to do. There’s a precocious kid sidekick character who helps save the day. Also, lots of animation errors which had mostly been absent this season. Even the ending relies on Michelangelo making a stupid joke and a pratfall in order to usher in the credits; the kind of cornball shit these “red sky” episodes had been avoiding for a while.

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If I didn’t know any better, I’d think David Wise ghost-wrote this one.

Still, it starts the last cycle of episodes for the series that sees Dregg stuck in Dimension X, waiting for Mung’s micro-bots to rebuild the Dreggnaut and all his other tech. In that regard, it explains why he would lower himself to stealing technology from an Earth scientist rather than just have Mung build what he needs. I suppose what is interesting is that destroying his base and banishing him to Dimension X is not the solution to Dregg’s threat. He bounces right back almost immediately. Now, if the Turtles want to stop Dregg, they’re going to have to take more… permanent measures.

Last thing to of note is the scientist character, Professor Huxley. Just look at him.

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The character designers straight up copied Baxter Stockman from the Mirage comics when designing this guy. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence, either. I forgot to mention it, but Dregg’s Vortex Teleporter, with those huge “lamps” aimed at a platform, is a dead-ringer for the Teleportal the Utroms used in the Mirage comics.

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While the Fred Wolf produced TMNT cartoon deliberately distanced itself from the Mirage comics as much as possible, it’s kind of a thrill to see these Easter eggs show up. A shame they hadn’t slipped them in a little earlier in the series. We’ve only got two episodes left.

“The Day the Earth Disappeared” (written by Jeffrey Scott)

Dregg creates a warp to drag the entire planet Earth into Dimension X. The Turtles interfere, but are cast into a black hole universe by Mung and must find their way back. That leaves Splinter to infiltrate the Dreggnaut and thwart Dregg’s plans.

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This is probably my pick for best episode of the season. It’s very tense, with a lot of action and some pretty grim circumstances.

Still operating from Dimension X, Dregg tries to drag the Earth into a system he controls to give himself home field advantage. When the Turtles interfere using Donatello’s portal generator (that hasn’t been seen in a while), Dregg has Mung warp in a black hole to intercept them. Mung actually begins to question Dregg’s sanity in this episode and Dregg’s zeal to destroy the Turtles nearly gets them all killed. This’ll actually come to a head next episode, but I’m loving Dregg’s descent into madness this season.

The Turtles wind up trapped in a black hole universe and it’s up to the supporting cast to save them. April has a small role, keeping the portal generator in the lair going so she can teleport them back to Earth, while Splinter takes on a huge part. In fact, he saves the day in this episode and is the real protagonist.

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Splinter got a lot more play as an ensemble character when the series began, but somewhere around the fourth season he started to drift away. For a long stretch of episodes, Splinter sort of sat the show out, just chilling in the lair and dispensing wisdom when convenient. It was a trip to see him go all-out ninja master in this episode, getting the better of Dregg, Mung, the Bat-Men and ultimately rescuing everybody.

Unfortunately, no episode is perfect and there are a bunch of animation errors dotting this one. Leo gets a red bandana a bunch of times and for long, lingering shots, too. The rest of the animation is sort of listless; I think the budget for the season is starting to run out.

But that’s okay, because we’re just about at the finish line.

“Divide and Conquer” (written by Jeffrey Scott)

Using the micro-bots, Dregg builds the Morphogenesis Exoskeleton Suit; armor that can suck the life energy out of anyone it touches. After draining the five best warriors in the black hole universe, Dregg attacks the Earth in a mad desire to destroy the Turtles. The only weapon capable of stopping Dregg is Krang’s old robot body, but the Turtles will have to scour the ruins of the Technodrome to find it.

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The final episode of the series couldn’t have a simpler plot. Dregg comes to Earth to destroy the Turtles with his bare hands and the Turtles have to find a way to blow him to pieces. That’s it.

And it’s a surprisingly satisfying finish. This is a series FINALE, not just a last episode. It sends the show off with a feeling of closure and finality, which is the last way I thought this mostly episodic series was going to end. I mean, maybe we take it for granted now that all long-running shows have to end with a big finish, but that just wasn’t the case back in the day. A bunch of popular cartoons that ran for years and years and years ultimately just petered off into oblivion without a satisfying conclusion.

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero ran for 95 episodes (or 139 if you add the DiC seasons) and it ended with nothing. No climactic showdown with Cobra, no final victory for the forces of good; it just stopped making episodes. The Real Ghostbusters ran for 140 episodes and it got nothing when it was over. It ended without any fanfare or even a goodbye. Transformers ran for 98 episodes, and while it did get a 3-part finale, it was a sort of “non-ending” that tied nothing up. Galvatron and the Decepticons were still where they were at the start of the series, raiding planets for energy and inconveniencing the Autobots.

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I could go on like this. Popular cartoons that ran for 100 or more episodes just didn’t get endings, back then. Maybe the toy companies didn’t want them to; merchandise still ran for years after the shows ended and executives didn’t want kids to feel like it was over, otherwise they might stop buying stuff. I really don’t know the reason, but true finales just weren’t the norm.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, on the other hand, was generous. We got an ENDING. If anything, this entire 8-episode season functions as an 8-part series finale, knocking down all the pins one at a time and getting us to a comfortable position to say goodbye. The Turtles got their unstable mutations cured, Carter’s off in the future finding a cure for his own problem, Shredder and Krang are stuck in Dimension X for good, and Lord Dregg?

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He’s fucking DEAD.

So watch Dregg throughout these two seasons and you’ll see what I mentioned earlier in this review. He starts to go crazy as the defeats pile up. Throughout season 9 he’s fairly cunning and deceptive. By season 10, he’s getting pissed and his schemes take on a more forceful aspect as he tries to muscle his way to victory. Partway through the season he starts to fucking lose it and the other characters begin to notice. And in this episode, Mung finally calls him out for losing sight of their plan to take over the universe, instead becoming obsessed with defeating the Turtles. And Dregg just doesn’t give a shit anymore, turns himself into an unstoppable killing machine and goes on a rampage through the streets of New York, desperate to kill the Turtles.

I love it. The villain actually has a clear arc over the progress of these 16 episodes, getting crazier and crazier until he snaps at the very end. He ultimately loses the Dreggnaut and all his followers, essentially reduced to a mindless monster as his last ditch effort for satisfaction. Compare that to Shredder and Krang, who remained pretty static for 8 seasons and were content to just wash and repeat the same plan hoping that “maybe it’ll work this time”. Dregg, clearly, does not handle failing as gracefully as them.

The Turtles deal with him the only way they can. And after 193 episodes of this show, someone actually DIES. The Turtles go to the ruins of the Technodrome, fetch Krang’s old robot body, pilot it like a mech (using the atomic expander to make it grow) into battle against Dregg, use a move Splinter taught them to immobilize their enemy, and then? Then they set the robot body to create an atomic explosion and shove it, AND DREGG, through the portal to Dimension X a second before it detonates.

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No, we don’t SEE Dregg die, but I think we can safely assume he wasn’t going to survive being at the epicenter of an atomic explosion.

While the episode has a simple plot, it feels like a relief coming off of the serialized buildup of this season which was getting progressively more complicated and dense. While yes, some fans might feel that it was wrong to exclude Shredder and Krang from the finale, Scott makes sure that they’re gone but not forgotten. Dregg’s plan to build a life energy-sucking suit is inspired by his earlier scheme to steal the power and intellect from Shredder and Krang. The ruined Technodrome appears, as the Technodrome has always been a staple of season finales, and Krang’s robot body winds up a major factor in resolving the plot. Shredder and Krang are there in spirit if not in person.

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April also gets to make some facetime in the finale. She’s kidnapped by Dregg, because of course she is, but she winds up helping the Turtles through to the end. Well, she mostly just drives the Turtle Van, but at least she’s proactively participating in the final battle.

And finally, when all is said and done, Splinter bows to his pupils and tells them that they are no longer his students, but his equals; they have learned all he has to teach. It is a perfect close to the series. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is over. FINISHED.

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So looking back? Yes, I made fun of this show a LOT during my review series, but it was coming from a place of affection, like poking fun at a friend. You know I didn’t REALLY mean it, right ‘80s Ninja Turtles cartoon?

This show is something unique unto itself. It is weird and spontaneous, but it can also be derivative and predictable. There are episodes where the animation quality surprises you and the show looks fluid and gorgeous. And then there are episodes that look like the Korean guy animating it had a seizure on his drawing board, the ink and paint guy was colorblind and the cel photographer was hoping that if he did a bad enough job someone would FINALLY fire him. But no one ever did.

This show can be brilliant, hilarious, exciting, crazy and otherwise inspired… but then nearly as often, it just goes through the motions to meet first run syndication deadlines. So yes, this show is flawed. VERY flawed, in fact. But all those little quality control malfunctions and inane nonsense are also part of its charm. If this show was competent 100% of the time it wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining.

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You can watch the show distilled down to just its best episodes, sure. And for a while, I considered putting together an abridged viewing list; just the best episodes or the ones that mattered most to the narrative. But that would be sort of missing the point. You kind of NEED that crap, those episodes with lazy animation, recycled scripts, contradictory continuity and plot holes the size of the Technodrome. They’re as fundamental as the highlights; you can’t have the wheat without the chaff.

But now it’s over. Rewatching the whole show in order, I realized just how much of it I MISSED during the original broadcast; I wonder if I’d even seen half of the show when I was a kid. The new material was exciting and the old material was nostalgic and after three years of writing these articles, I guess I kind of thought I’d never run out of episodes. But I have.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is not Avatar: The Last Airbender. It’s not DuckTales. It’s not even Gargoyles. It is closer to being the B-movie of children’s television animation. It isn’t out and out garbage, but it isn’t anything approaching a masterpiece. It’s just entertaining, flaws and all, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Well, I guess now I can move onto the 4Kids TMNT cartoon from 2003. Man, that’s gonna be cool; all that continuity and smooth animation and deep storytelling and character development and- Wait, what? There was another TMNT show in-between the Fred Wolf cartoon and the 4Kids cartoon? No, you don’t mean… You’re not talking about…

Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation.

God help me.

  • Ray Finkle

    Great write-up. I loved the dynamic that Shredder and Krang brought to the show when they were brought back; you hit the description spot on — the fact that they rebelled against Dregg and then kind of did their own thing, but never purposely/directly aided the Turtles was a very well done story element that I didn’t expect to see watching as a kid.

    I enjoyed the “red sky” seasons because of what they set out to do, even if they didn’t do so perfectly.

  • Kenshiroh

    I think I mentioned this in the comments of another of your articles, but my CBS affiliate (KIRO) just abandoned most of their Saturday morning cartoons, and these TMNT episodes instead aired on the FOX affiliate (KCPQ) on Sunday mornings, even including the “CBS Action Zone” bumpers.

  • JonGorski

    I just want to say that in college my friends and I played a drinking game during the Globfather episode. (Drink when they say “protein computer”) It will get you hammered fast.

  • Last time, I mentioned that there were various reasons I stopped watching with season 9, but you know what? The preemptions might have begun sooner than this, as I think I might have been frustrated with not being able to follow what was going on.

    I also remember it really pissing me off with Garfield and Friends, which admittedly had higher stock with me at the time. In fairness, that show just got better as it went, including animation.

    So, with the pulling of the TMNT from Turtle Trek, any idea why they went with that particular part? I guess it wasn’t planned ahead, but that just seems like such an odd choice, as you said. I don’t remember anything that would really lend itself to this or that, either.

  • SleeperWillWake

    “It’s not even Gargoyles.”
    Is that meant to be some sort of jab at Gargoyles? Because, I think that’s too easy of a target. Gargoyles may not be as popular as Ducktales or Avatar, but I would argue that it was just as good or even better then the aforementioned shows.

    • Pedro Ferreira

      TMNT was better than those shows really.

  • Mystery Cup of Joe

    Good job Mark. I know this series can be difficult, but it is also enjoyable due to all the quirkiness. And you were right about the the final episode, it was an actual 80’s cartoon that had an ending. I don’t remember anything from Transformers, G.I. Joe, Thundercats, He-Man, She-Ra, or any other that gave me a satisfying ending. I believe the final episode is what left a good taste for the Red Sky Season. I also remember it seeing it once on t.v. and then I had to wait a few good years before it came online. Good luck with the Next Mutation. Don’t worry, it won’t be long. Then you can enjoy the 4Kids cartoon.

  • OverMaster

    Congratulations on completing the whole series. That’s some dedication! And thanks for all the entertainment from reading these reviews.

  • diamond

    Nice to see someone else who likes the Red Sky era.

    Also I want to think for introducing me to Savage Dragon, I personally don’t think it’s nearly as bad as you made it out to be, I immediately bought a bootleg DVD after watching a few episodes on Youtube.

  • Will Rearick

    Reminding me how often CBS used to preempt Saturday morning cartoons for golf and how few regions got these episodes really made me appreciate how lucky I was – I distinctly remember watching most of Season 10 when it first aired, and I was out in the middle of nowhere. The few episodes that were preempted gave me a deep-seated hate of the PGA.

  • Dani

    Seeing the ruined, abandoned Technodrome in the final episode was a surprisingly bittersweet moment. It served as a reminder that Shredder, Krang, Bebop, and Rocksteady were gone and that they were never coming back. I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t make me feel sad. They brought so much to the show, and it really wouldn’t have been the same without them. It never is easy saying goodbye.

    And how did Shredder survive in Dimension X anyway?